Bullying David Brent: A Loner on the Road

Skippy and Beagle met in a dusty Film Studies tute (because nobody goes to Film lectures) back in 2014. The amount of times the pair have agreed on a film is about the same amount of times as Karan Dhamija has won an election. Now, at the end of their degrees, they have realised that writing a Woroni column is the most use they will get out of their Minor, so they figure they might as well get their money’s worth.

bands

Life on the Road is Ricky Gervais’ revival of his former hit character, David Brent. Fifteen years after The Office, Brent is trying to fulfil a lifelong dream of landing a record deal for his band and a tour of Britain. Unfortunately, all the gigs take place within a half-an-hour radius of Brent’s house, his bandmates hate him and, shock-horror, no record deal comes about.

S:  Okay, so I haven’t seen The Office.

B:  I got you. The first 30 minutes of the film is a great episode of The Office. It is different enough that it’s fresh, but it’s still familiar – Brent’s humour going against the backdrop of a stuffy-HR climate is hilarious. For me, the best parts of the movie still took place in an office.

S:  That kind of ruins the whole point of the film though. Weren’t we trying to get a taste of Brent’s Life on the Road? Except I can’t help but agree with you – at least when he was in the office environment he had some great characters to bounce off.

B:  I think that’s part of the reason why the film runs out of steam. In the TV series, Brent has at least 3 other characters on screen that can share the load. Plus, he was the boss, so we don’t feel as bad laughing at him. But in this movie he’s just as pathetic as any other office dog, which meant that by the end of the movie, I just felt like we were bullying him.

S:  Yikes I reckon the film could have been redeemed if the scope was broadened a little bit. Perhaps by focusing more on developing Brent’s reluctant bandmates? Instead, all we get are straight-faced ‘confessional’ style interviews, and that only bolsters the bullying.

B:  I agree, but for me Brent needed an ally on the road, someone on his team to make us feel like we weren’t laughing at a loner.

S:  But those laughs were pretty good for a lot of the film. Watching Brent, you’re reminded of that weird kid in school who nobody liked, but for some reason you were forced to tolerate. It’s funny, uncomfortable, and at times shocking – especially when you’re forced to watch as Gervais belts out outrageous hits like ‘Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disabled’.

B:  Yeah. It is clear Gervais has been stockpiling 15 years of his best Brent jokes and given us the highlight reel.

S:  And the lowlights?

B:  It’s a TV special on a big screen. Fans of The Office will get a kick out of seeing Gervais’ strongest character back in his element, but don’t expect a film that is going to stick around. If anything this spoils the character a little bit, because it highlights the tragedy of Brent over the comedy. I haven’t gone back to watch The Office yet, but I wonder if I will find it harder to laugh at the guy who I now know is going to leave Slough and have his dreams painfully crushed on the silver screen. It’s actually kind of depressing.

S:  Yep. The jokes worked for the first 20 minutes, but then they were hurled back at us, again, and again. It’s a simple idea: if the audience claps once, they will continue to clap. But Gervais is wrong – we will not clap. Instead, we will watch as David Brent continues to deliver the same awkward lines and end up in the same awkward office. It is a sketch that is no longer funny, but rather annoying. Then we will realise the movie is finally over – and then we will clap.

B:  What do you rate it?

S:  2 ½ Skippy’s out of 5.

B:  I’m going with a flat 2 Beagles.

* Author’s note: Karan Dhamija would like to remind the Woroni readership that he has in fact won more elections than James Connolly.